Speech of the President of the Republic Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the official reception in honor of the President of Azerbaijan on behalf of the President of Romania Ion Iliescu, Bucharest, July 1, 1995

Mr. President of Romania, Senate of Romania, honorable ministers, high officials of Romania, representatives of the public and the press, ladies and gentlemen,

I accepted the invitation of the President of Romania Ion Iliescu with pleasure and paid an official visit to your country. This invitation itself is an important step for the development of friendly relations between Romania and the Republic of Azerbaijan. Appreciating this step, I came to meet you together with my colleagues with a sense of friendship and respect for the Romanian people and the changes taking place in recent years in your country.

The Romanian people are known in the world for its great works, heroic history and the struggle for independence. Azerbaijan is well aware of Romania, the Romanian people, its history, ancient culture, literature and art. Romania is known especially for its oil. Azerbaijan as an ancient oil country has always been in contact with countries which produce oil. This also connects us with Romania. Many Azerbaijani oilmen, scientists, engineers, technicians, experts working in the oil fields in Romania, Pitesti in the 50s-60s, helped the Romanian people in the development of their country.

The Azerbaijani oilmen, including the representatives of the Azerbaijani culture, science and art created close relations with their Romanian colleagues. They were always shown hospitality, brotherly and friendly relations in Romania and felt their support. Therefore, today we have every reason to say that the Romanian-Azerbaijani relations of friendship and cooperation have their own history. Today we have to work together to stimulate our cooperation and the development of friendship between our peoples.

In Azerbaijan people closely observe the processes taking place in Romania after the December revolution in 1989. This period in the history of Romania is related with the fact that over the years great social and political changes have taken place in order to open the potential of the Romanian people, to democratize the country, to establish human rights and independence of Romania.

From the personal contacts, meetings and information we know that these years have been difficult, painful and sometimes tragic for your people. However, these years were glorious at the same time, in the sense that great changes have been take place in the life of Romania and the Romanian people in the last years. Democratic changes taking place in your country in recent years, the process of democratization of social and political life, establishment of market economy and political pluralism, freedom of speech, press, conscience, all these developments cause a feeling of deep respect in the Azerbaijani society and our people.

We are well aware that everything that is done in these years in the true sense of the word is at the will of the people and for the people. In this regard, I would like to emphasize the role of Ion Iliescu, President of Romania, and our friend. During these years, he manages to resolve all the problems and his policy is fully consistent with the interests of the people.

Azerbaijan gained its independence as in the December of 1991. Our people consider it as a great historical achievement. At the beginning of this century, in 1918 Azerbaijan gained independence and created the first democratic government of Azerbaijan. However, it lasted only 23 months and was overthrown due to the establishment of the Soviet power in Azerbaijan and as a result of the aggression of the Red Army against Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union for 71 years and finally, in the December of 1991 we gained independence. These three and a half years of independence were very difficult and complicated for our country and people. The fact which mostly complicates our lives is that Azerbaijan has been subjected to military aggression by the neighboring Republic of Armenia since 1988. Unfortunately, the communist government of the Soviet Union did not prevent this aggression then. Azerbaijan and Armenia as the Soviet republics were part of a common state, the Soviet Union.

Altogether, this caused great political damage to the Caucasian region. Certainly, Azerbaijan has suffered heavy losses due to the aggression of Armenia, 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territory has been occupied by the Armenian armed forces. Over one million Azerbaijani citizens, residents of the lands occupied by the Armenian forces have been expelled from their homes and live in difficult conditions in tent camps.

Today, with a feeling of great regret we have to point out that the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over the Mountainous-Garabagh was very contagious. Now the entire Caucasus and many regions of the former Soviet Union, including the rest of the world are surrounded with the flames of conflict. We have lost much as a result of this aggression, hundreds of people have been killed and more than 700,000 towns and villages have been destroyed in the occupied territories. As I said, a part of the Azerbaijani lands is under the occupation of the Armenian armed forces.

Despite all this, as a peace-loving country Azerbaijan is for the solution of the conflict by peaceful and political means. We have achieved certain results in this direction. Last May, we signed an agreement on cease-fire which is observed for more than thirteen months. This is only one condition for achieving a long-term and real peace. From this point of view, we cherish great hopes in the international organizations, the United Nations and, in particular, in the Minsk Group of OSCE created specifically for the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

Last December, we adopted an important document on the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict at the Budapest Summit of OSCE. We have great hopes for the implementation of this resolution.

Romania, as a member of OSCE contributes to the peaceful solution of the conflict. Thus, I accepted the declaration of Ion Iliescu, President of Romania with great pleasure which fully supports the position of Azerbaijan in the peaceful settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

We hope for the further cooperation with Romania in the framework of OSCE, and we believe that Romania will continue to help OSCE to take more active part in the settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, including the organization of work on the formation of multinational peacekeeping forces for ensuring peace in the region.

Some internal political processes also complicate the life of the independent Azerbaijan besides the military aggression. For example, in this period there were several anti constitutional actions in the republic. With pleasure I can tell you that we have overcome these difficulties and unpleasant facts and now the political situation in Azerbaijan is stable.

Azerbaijan which is an independent country, is building a legal and democratic state, conducting of reforms in the economy and integrates into the world economic system. Azerbaijan has achieved political pluralism, there are dozens of political parties, hundreds of newspapers and other freedoms.

The main principle for us is to ensure the human rights, individual freedoms and an opportunity for all the Azerbaijani citizens to enjoy their rights regardless of ethnicity, religion and belief.

On November 12 we shall hold parliamentary elections, be the first parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan. On this day by national referendum there will be adopted the first constitution of the independent Republic of Azerbaijan.

In its foreign policy Azerbaijan tries to build equal relations with all the countries of the world. Azerbaijan is a member of many international organizations and is involved in the activities of the United Nations. We appreciate the fact that in the December of 1991 Romania was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Azerbaijan. Taking this opportunity, on behalf of the Azerbaijani people I want to thank Romania and its President Ion Iliescu.

We hope to improve the relations with all the world economic associations. We were allocated foreign investment and we adopted a broad program on privatization of state property.

Last year, Azerbaijan signed a contract with a number of foreign oil companies on joint oil developments in the Caspian Sea. We are implementing it into life.

Very important declaration, which we adopted yesterday, at the meeting of the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation is of great importance. I thank the people of Romania, the Romanian government, Ion Iliescu, President of Romania for the great, efficient work done to organize the meeting of the leaders of the Black Sea countries.

We shall take an active part in the work of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and take all measures to implement our task. We shall do everything possible for the further development of the bilateral relations between Romania and Azerbaijan. We want to cooperate in economy and in all spheres of social and political life.

Azerbaijan will cooperate with the European Union, including the European communities. Last year we signed a "Partnership for Peace" program of NATO in Brussels.

The Azerbaijani people for many years tried to become independent and finally achieved it, however it faced many difficulties, hardships and all possible pressures. I hope that the international community, including Romania, will support us.

I wish the Romanian people happiness, prosperity and success in the implementation of your objectives and plans.